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America's Pending Shortage of Cancer Doctors
Date:10/31/2008

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One remedy to the shortage might be to train other doctors, or nurse practitioners, to take over some aspects of cancer care, Bajorin said. For instance, they might be trained in "survivorship care," caring for patients once their cancer has gone into remission or has been eliminated.

Or the solution might require an attitude shift on the part of both oncologists and patients, Bajorin said, from a primary cancer doctor providing care to an entire team providing care, with different health care professionals tending to patients at different stages.

Whether the shortage materializes exactly as predicted or not, learning to communicate with your cancer doctor and others on your team is crucial, according to the experts at CancerCare, a New York-based nonprofit organization providing support services to those affected by cancer. Among its tips for communicating with your doctor and other health-care team members:

  • Remember that you are a consumer of health care. And with that in mind, the best way to begin making difficult decisions about health care is to educate yourself.
  • When you have an appointment, bring someone with you. Doing so lends support, in addition to providing a "second set of ears," and another person to think of questions.
  • Write out a list of questions before an appointment; this list will help you remember important questions. Be sure to make the questions specific and brief because your doctor has limited time. And ask your most important questions first.
  • Write down the answers and instructions the doctor gives you. Even better, bring a tape recorder to the appointment -- as long as the doctor says it's OK.
  • When asking questions, use "I" statements. For example, the phrase "I don't understand..." is much more effective than "You're being unclear about..."
  • If you're confused by something your doctor says, repeat it back by sayi
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